Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Announces Enhancements to Baltimore Sister Cities Program

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Catherine E. Pugh
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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Announces Enhancements to Baltimore Sister Cities Program

Program to become standalone non-profit while seeking to expand to new and emerging regions around the world

BALTIMORE, Md. (December 7, 2015)—Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced plans to restructure the Baltimore Sister Cities Program (BSCP), aiming to expand the program’s focus on developing significant opportunities for economic partnerships, more cultural and educational exchanges, and health and environmental initiatives.

“The new structure of the Baltimore Sister Cities Program will further my initiative to increase Baltimore City’s economy through international trade and business as well as broadening awareness of our exceptional educational and arts and cultural institutions,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake said. “By growing Baltimore’s economy we will build stronger neighborhoods and create a thriving environment for international visitors and new businesses.”

The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development established a working group in 2014 to research and recommend changes to the program. The group was comprised of representatives from the Office of the Mayor, Maryland Sister States Program, Baltimore Development Corporation, Baltimore Sister City committees, the State of Maryland’s Office of the Secretary of the State, the local business community and Baltimore City Public Schools. The following outlines the recommended next steps:

• The BSCP is currently a series of committees, reporting directly to the Office of the Mayor. The program will be restructured as an independent 501(c)(3) corporation to be named Baltimore Sister Cities, Inc. (‘BSC, Inc.’).This will provide greater stability and consistency during administration transitions.

• The independent 501(c)(3) status will clarify the tax status of monetary contributions to the program. This will simplify the financial administration of the program; a benefit to both the BSC, Inc. and the City of Baltimore. • The new organization will have its own officers, Board of Directors and Executive Committee. The Office of the Mayor’s involvement will exist through Board presence, general operating assistance and high level supporting relationships.

• BSC, Inc. will partner internally (amongst the individual sister city committees) and with other organizations to generate a consistent message while maximizing outreach, making the program stronger and more valuable to Baltimore City.

• Goals will be established, placing a stronger emphasis on economic development with the objective to produce measurable outcomes. Each committee will be required to report annually on program successes in the areas of arts and culture, education, health/medical, tourism, and business and community engagement.

The Baltimore Sister Cities Program was founded in 1973 by Mayor William Donald Schaefer. The program initially sought to build on the accomplishments of Sister Cities International, which was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Eisenhower’s vision was an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities from around the world.

As time has changed and reshaped our world, now is the opportune time to make changes to the BSCP, gaining more opportunities to connect internationally through cultural, economic and educational experiences, while providing invaluable global opportunities for Baltimore City.

Current sister cities include: Kawasaki, Japan (active since 1979); Piraeus, Greece (active since 1982); Luxor & Alexandria, Egypt (active since 1982/1995 and now combined into one committee); and Xiamen, China (active since 1985). Sister cities are currently selected based on potential trade and economic relationships, similar demographic connections, shared geographic/sector challenges, and experiences such as student exchange programs.

Baltimore has a strong history and promising future with many opportunities to build upon its role as a global economic city. Baltimore is committed to being a great international partner. In 2015 alone, the City of Baltimore has welcomed Boy and Girls Scouts and accepted an artist’s application for Light City from Kawasaki, Japan, as well as sponsored a business delegation exchange from Xiamen, China. With the restructuring of the BSCP, the program can be celebrated for its rich 42-year history and move forward as an impactful piece of Baltimore’s economic development plan.

To see a full copy of the report, go to baltimoresistercities.org. For information on the program, contact [email protected].

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